You wrote “I need to figure out how to find ancestry in places like PA
[Pennsylvania] for my great-great-grandfather & great-great-grandmother to determine who his parents were, where in Ireland he came from or when he immigrated to America and what my great-great grandmother's maiden name was, and where they married, had their first two children, etc..”
Your challenge is the same as every other researcher facing a “new” locality of research. It is incumbent upon each of us to learn about:
Resources said to have survived for the locality of interest. To find out what has survived from the time period your ancestor lived in the place, consider the local town, county and state archives & libraries, local and regional genealogical societies, local and regional historical societies, WPA inventories of local courthouses, http://www.usgenweb.com/, FamilySearch's Pennsylvania Research Outline, and such.
NOTE you won't be looking in person at the records in these distant facilities, since real life requires us to do things like eat, sleep, pay our mortgages, work and such. But...
You will first exhaust all possibilities of online scanned images of original documents and indexes to save time when onsite research must be done by you or a researcher you hire. This would include checking the following resources at
least monthly in case anything new has been added:
http://www.familysearch.org/ (in particular the Family History Library Catalog of microfilm and microfiche to be ordered throughh yourlocal Family History Center.)
http://www.google.com/ Google Search, Google Books, etc.
When you "get" to a different locality, check to see if FamilySearch has another research outline, and if either http://www.worldgenweb.org/ or http://www.usgenweb.com/ has suggestions for the new locality.
Your list of relevant websites will expand as your ancestor's place of residence changes in your research.
FOR FURTHER READING
See P. William Filby’s Bibliography of American County Histories. If you go to the publisher's website, you'll find a search box for the Google Book version of the publication. The publisher explains the title was "compiled for use by historians and genealogists, A Bibliography of American County Histories provides a state-by-state listing of all published county histories of any significance, giving information concerning title, author, and place and date of publication, as well as details of editions, reprints, and indexes, so the reader can learn what is available almost at a glance."
Happy family tree climbing!
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© 2008 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.
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http://blog.DearMYRTLE.com. Myrt welcomes queries and research challenges, but regrets she is unable to answer each personally.